“We have hundreds of friends, why do we feel so alone?”
A while back I met with a mentor to talk about a relationship I was in at the time. I remember telling him how afraid I was.
Nothing was wrong with her or with our relationship. In fact, everything was good. Which is why I think I was so afraid—afraid that I’d get hurt.
You see, within this relationship, I wasn’t relating so much as I was performing, working so hard at presenting the perfect, most ideal version of myself. I was afraid that eventually she might see me the way in which I then saw myself. And so out of this fear, I ended the relationship.
I ended the relationship because I wanted the intimacy without the possibility of rejection or hurt.
The Curse of Controllable Friendships
In today’s world, many of us find ourselves oscillating between our need for attachment and our fear of rejection. We so desperately want to be with someone, but are scared to get too close to anyone. So in response, we keep everyone at a safe “controllable” distance, where they are close enough to kind of know us, but are far enough where they can never really hurt us.
In today’s world, many of us find ourselves oscillating between our need for attachment and our fear of rejection.
Social media provides the perfect platform for this. We have the ability to edit our Facebook profiles, proofread our texts and post photoshopped “selfies” where the risk is seemingly minimal. What we’re not realizing though, is that the reward is temporal and the cost is extremely detrimental. In this age of Facebook, it’s never been easier to get the feeling of being accepted while not having to risk vulnerability and the possibility of being rejected.We’ve become a generation that prefers Netflix to dating, texting to talking, pornography to sex and being liked by many instead of being loved by few. As a result, so many of us are finding ourselves to be and feel as if we’re surrounded by people yet still alone.
It may seem obvious, but it bears restating: Living life to its full can’t happen when we never let anyone in; it can only become a reality within the environment of safe, healthy, authentic relationships that allow us the space to be vulnerable, to be ourselves.
Connecting VS. Escaping
Our smartphones have allowed us to connect, but also they have given us the opportunity to escape, or rather, disconnect from the reality of life. Our knee-jerk reaction in times of discomfort has been to reach for our phones. Whether it’s waiting in line at the supermarket, in an office meeting at work or during a heated conflict.
But what if engaging in conflict, embracing the mundane reality that comes with life and staying focused on one person or activity at a time was necessary to having a better, healthier, more substantial life?
You see, this forces us to not only deepen our relationships, it allows us the opportunity to deepen our understanding of who we are as individuals.
Most of us present a sort of representation of ourselves online, usually only including the very best parts of ourselves. So few of those we “know” actually know us. It’s almost as if we’ve become professional “performers,” living our lives out on the stages of social media.
The thing is, life is not meant to be a nonstop performance. Though it feels great to be applauded and accepted by thousands, when who we are on stage, (or rather online) is not who we are in real life, the risk of being rejected is lower, but the reward of ever being truly accepted is diminished.
This is why Ralph Waldo Emerson is famously quoted saying…